"Through the wire."
Dedicated to my own "Grannychick"- gone but never forgotten.
"Mrs. Hamilton will be down in just a tic. She's just getting her face on." One of the nurses said while Ava, her mother and her grandmother waited in the sun room of the Kew nursing home.
Four year old Ava, who was sitting in a chair and swinging her legs back and forth impatiently, thought that was a strange thing to say. Mrs. Hamilton was her Mum wasn't it? Not her great-grandmother who was affectionately known as Grannychick because her father hadn't been able to say grandmother when he was little. And for that matter why did her great-grandmother need to put her face on? She suspected it was like how her grandmother took her teeth out at night and put them in a glass of water by her bed. Ava was terrified of her grandmother without her teeth in. It made her face look all sunken like a creature in Ava's nightmares. Maybe old people like her grandmother had to take her teeth out at night but very, very old people like her great-grandmother took her face off at night, Ava decided.
"No rush." Ava's Mum said.
Ava thought there was a rush because they'd bought her great grandmother a cake and it looked very tasty and especially when she noticed the "Ach Ooh" lady heading in their general direction. Ava stopped swinging her legs then. She remembered her Dad had been watching a documentary about dangerous animals in the wild once and it was said that if you played dead and made yourself very small many animals would leave you be, thinking you were no threat. And though the "Ach Ooh" lady was not a brown bear or lion Ava thought she was much worse. The lady smelt funny and it always made Ava sneeze and she loved to pinch her cheeks and give her a kiss on her mouth or cheeks which was the same feeling as when her parents had taken her overseas on holidays and she got to stick her feet into a tank of fish for a massage and the little fish tickled her feet and her Dad told her they were sucking fish. Her Mum had overheard and told her Dad off for his language but Ava didn't know why sucking fish were bad words. And Ava could understand very little of what the "Ach Ooh" lady said besides ach and ooh and always felt as if she was disappointing the funny smelling lady by not knowing what she was saying and possibly agreeing to things she should not ever agree to.
"Hello Mrs. Fields."Ava's Mum said, standing to give the woman a quick hug. Ava wondered whether her Mum thought she smelt funny or not. If she did she gave no sign of it.
Ava's grandmother smiled up at the other woman but didn't get up because she had a doggy knee apparently. "Mrs. Fields. You are looking particularly lovely today." Ava's grandmother said.
Ava looked at her grandmother thinking perhaps she needed to wear the glasses she wore when she was doing the crossword, knitting or reading because she thought Mrs. Fields looked scarily like a witch- and the laugh she gave Ava's grandmother's words confirmed that fear.
"Ach, ooh kind." Mrs. Fields said.
Ava curled up even smaller but her efforts were in vain because, like their black cat Snowy pouncing on something Mrs. Fields saw Ava and grinned widely. She bent down, slowly. "Ooh grown." She said, leaning down to pinch Ava's cheeks and then her head bent down closer and closer and yep, she kissed Ava's cheek and it felt like the little fish's mouth. Ava wanted to wipe her cheek in an effort to get rid of the old lady germs which were very bad because she was too young to be old but she knew her Mum would disapprove so until she could do it sneakily she had to feel the cold, wet sensation upon her cheek.
"Ooh be good?" Mrs. Fields asked.
Ava nodded vigorously, not understanding the question but clearly this was the correct answer because Mrs. Fields looked pleased.
"Ach, good girl. Ow ooh do school?" Mrs. Fields asked.
Ava nodded vigorously again figuring this could be the right response given the popularity of the last one but Mrs. Fields looked puzzled and then looked to Ava's Mum for help.
"Very well Mrs. Fields. She has learnt to write and is going through the readers with great thirst. I think she's going to be a reader this one. She got a lovely report for her first term at school." Ava's Mum said.
"Ach, good girl." Mrs. Fields said.
Ava nodded, this time a little more uncertainly. But this was again the correct answer and Mrs. Fields gave her an approving pat on the head- like a dog Ava thought with some resentment- before leaving them be.
As her Mum sat back down Ava pretended to have an itchy forehead and nose and carefully she wiped her cheek. Neither her Mum or grandmother appeared to notice, she thought with some satisfaction.
"It's a shame Jeong-hun couldn't come." Ava's grandmother said, talking about Ava's big brother, pronounced Jung-Hoon. Jeong-hun didn't look like her or her Mum or Dad. When she had asked her Mum she had looked sad and said she would tell her about it when she was a big girl but Ava had overheard bits and pieces and heard her Mum and Dad talking that Jeong-hun had been adopted. Ava thought that meant that her Mum and Dad had gone and got her brother from the pound like they had when they'd adopted Snowy. Whereas she Ava had come from her Mum's tummy.
"He had an essay for his "Torts" class." Ava's Mum said because Ava's brother was old and studying to be a lawyer like on that TV show her Dad liked to watch. Ava thought that all lawyers had to be fat and that her brother would have to eat lots and lots of food or he wouldn't be allowed to be one.
Ava yawned and started to swing her legs again but then her great-grandmother appeared in her wheelchair pushed by one of the nurses. Ava jumped up and ran over to her. "Happy birthday Grannychick. Did you get a letter from the Queen? Mum said you would. Did she say anything about her dogs?"
"She told me to give you a big hug and that she heard you did very well at school and to keep up the good work." Ava's great-grandmother replied.
This news excited Ava and she couldn't wait until show and tell at school next Monday when she could tell her classmates that her great-grandmother had gotten a letter from the queen of England for being very old and that the queen had sent her best wishes to Ava and told her she was very pleased with what a good girl she was being and how good she was doing in school and that if she was ever in England that she could go and play with her corgis. Ava bet none of her classmates would be able to top that tale!
"Hi Granny. Happy birthday." Ava's Mum said leaning over to kiss her great-grandmother.
Ava's grandma struggled to her feet and gave her mother a birthday kiss too.
"Is it time for cake now?" Ava asked. "We brought you an ice-cream cake because you don't have teeth."
Ava's great-grandmother chuckled. "How very thoughtful of you dear." She said. The nurse wheeled Ava's great-grandmother into the sitting room and Ava, her Mum and grandmother followed her through, Ava chattering away about all manner of things.
Half an hour later, her sweet cravings sated and feeling very full and a little bit sick- though she would not confess to this because her grandmother and her mother had both told her eating two slices of the ice-cream cake could make her tummy hurt and she did not want to hear them say "I told you so" and give each other that knowing look that you learnt the minute you became an adult or a mum- Ava was half dozing when something her great-grandmother said caught her attention. It wasn't particularly important or particularly clear but for some reason Ava knew exactly what it meant. "I have been having more and more dreams the past few weeks. Do you think that means I am coming to the end of my life?"
"Grandma, don't be silly. You know perfectly well you are quite healthy. Do not be so dramatic." Ava's Mum said, with a shake of her head.
"Scoff if you will but I can feel it in my veins. The mystery was solved and now I see it all- how it ended. That would have been more useful when I was young enough to have the desire to see the story through." Ava's great-grandmother said.
"We all know how our mysteries ended but yet that doesn't mean that myself or Amanda are about to cark it." Ava's grandmother said tartly.
Ava let her eyes close and she felt her mum's eyes on her but scrunched her eyes up as tight as she could so that her mother would think she was paying no attention to this conversation. To anyone else besides her, her mum, grandmother and great-grandmother this conversation would make absolutely no sense. Except she knew because she'd had the dreams too: so vivid she had felt as though she had stepped back in time where the people dressed funny and talked funny and everything was so confusing. Once she had spoken of them to her Mum and Dad but her Mum had gotten a funny look on her face- like the face Ava pulled when her Mum cruelly forced her to eat the vegetables on her plate- and said children had over-active imaginations and that next thing she'd have an imaginary friend. Ava had wisely decided not to tell her Mum that that was exactly what it was like.
"Little rabbits have big ears." Ava's Mum said.
"So? You think she won't have them. She's of our line but God forbid there be another war that will drag her into them and give her the dramas we all got from them." Ava's great-grandmother asked.
Ava's Mum just sighed sadly. And then the subject was changed, much to Ava's disappointment because she wanted to know if they had had the same dreams she had and if they could tell her what they meant and why she kept getting them and how to know what to do about it. And, years later, she would bitterly regret not piping up and asking the question then and there when she had three other women who could have given her the answers at her disposal.